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New era begins well for England

Fourth Test, The Oval, day one (close):
South Africa 194 v England 49-1

By Jamie Lillywhite

Graeme Smith and Kevin Pietersen
Pietersen's first task was to face his old adversary Smith at the toss

Kevin Pietersen's Test captaincy reign began encouragingly as England skittled South Africa for 194 and closed 49-1 on day one of the final Test at The Oval.

Graeme Smith was dropped off Steve Harmison with the first ball of the match but his side slumped from 103-1, losing 6-55 in 18 overs after lunch.

Harmison struck twice in two balls and James Anderson (3-42) claimed his 100th Test wicket in the next over.

Andrew Strauss fell at slip in reply but England enjoyed a profitable day.

Cynics may point to the fact the South Africans had little to play for after securing the Test series with their five-wicket win in the last match at Edgbaston.

But regardless it was an impressive first day performance from Pietersen, who cajoled his bowlers to just the right extent, keeping their spirits up and encouraging them to offer their own input on field placings and tactics.

There was no pre-match huddle, Pietersen reserving his main rallying cry for the dressing room.

Smith, who presided over the end of both Nasser Hussain and Michael Vaughan's tenures, would of course like nothing more than to add Pietersen to that list.

Hashim Amla
England's fightback continued at pace when Amla was beaten all ends up
But in an extraordinary first over, he cut the first ball of the match to Alastair Cook, who dropped the chance at gully despite getting both hands to the ball.

Then wicketkeeper Tim Ambrose's teeth were tested when a climbing ball from Harmison brushed off his gloves and nastily into his mouth.

Still in the first over, Harmison could not suppress a chuckle when a rapid delivery nipped back to catch Smith in that most painful of places.

The opposing captain was understandably down for a while, but not long, and was soon displaying the rather ungainly short arm pulls that England saw far too much of in his magnificent rearguard century in the last match.

Smith shared his seventh fifty partnership with Neil McKenzie, but Andrew Flintoff struck in the 20th over when Cook this time held on to a sharp chance at third slip.

But the England left-hander's catching frailties resurfaced when he spilled another opportunity at third slip as Hashim Amla edged Flintoff.

Harmison, perhaps benefiting from having much of the attention of his return taken by his new captain, bowled with pace, bounce, and more importantly, accuracy from the outset.

His short ball was hooked by Smith into the safe hands of Anderson at fine-leg, and after the batsmen crossed, Amla saw his middle stump dramatically uprooted by a magnificent yorker timed at 93mph.

606: DEBATE
eirebilly

A superb Anderson inswinger quickly accounted for Jacques Kallis, who has made only 95 runs in six innings in the series.

Ashwell Prince, by contrast so often a thorn in England's side with 300 runs in five innings prior to this match, played an uncharacteristically airy shot and drove to cover.

But by this stage Anderson, who was guilty of bowling too short in his first spell, was pitching the ball up perfectly for his natural swing to take effect.

Things were now also beginning to happen for Pietersen.

The customary token over for the spinner before an interval produced immediate results, Panesar's arm ball pinning AB de Villiers on the back foot, although replays suggested the ball may have bounced over.

Stuart Broad, also recalled to the team, again generally failed to convince with the ball, conceding 13 boundaries, but did collect two late wickets to justify Pietersen's faith.

There were too many balls short and wide of off-stump, Amla striking three fours in an over, but a straight, lifting ball was gloved by Morne Morkel and Bell swooped forward to take a fine diving catch inches from the turf at short-leg.

To compound the misery of his dismissal, Morkel then inadvertently made his way to the groundsman's shed rather than the pavilion, prompting great hilarity from all quarters - including his own colleagues - and continuing the general bonhomie in the England team.

When last man Makhaya Ntini came to the wicket the field was reminiscent of the ones set for the great West Indian pace attack of the mid-80s, with six slips in place.

Pietersen will hope to have the opportunity to set such attacking fields more often.

After Strauss' early dismissal Cook and Ian Bell played with fluency, and England followers will hope the new captain can have the same positive effect on the batsmen as he did with the bowlers to inspire the home team to a sizeable first innings advantage.


see also
Harmison relief at fine comeback
07 Aug 08 |  England
England v South Africa photos
07 Aug 08 |  Cricket
Pietersen appointment is 'brave'
04 Aug 08 |  England
Pietersen named England captain
04 Aug 08 |  England
Vaughan quits as England captain
04 Aug 08 |  England
South Africa in England in 2008
02 Aug 08 |  Cricket


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